Patriots of African Descent
In 1993, Valley Forge Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. erected the Patriots of African Descent Monument in Valley Forge National Historical Park. The monument is the first in a National Historical Park that honors the contributions made by the Black soldiers who fought in the American Revolutionary War. The 9-foot-tall granite monument stands on Route 23, as a lasting tribute to those patriots who served during the Valley Forge encampment 1777-1778.
More than 5,000 Black soldiers fought in America’s war for independence. During the Valley Forge encampment, hundreds of Black patriots served, suffered and trained throughout the harsh winter. Salem Poor and Peter Salem, heroes of Bunker Hill, were at Valley Forge. Civilian Richard Allen, founder of the African Methodist Episcopal Church, brought supplies to the troops at Valley Forge. Well-known baker Cyrus Bustill supplied food to the starving men and women at the encampment. Edward Hector of Conshohocken distinguished himself as a hero during the war.
Since its chartering in 1991, Valley Forge Alumnae Chapter has been a supporter of Valley Forge National Historical Park initiatives and the park’s commitment to preserve and educate visitors about the diverse cultures that contributed to our Nation’s quest for freedom.
Caesar Wallace – NH
Caesar Wallace was born in Africa Circa 1738. On 23 April 1818 he applied for a U.S. petition, which was granted at the rate of $96.00 per year. In his pension application, he is described as being a ‘man of colour. Caesar stated that he was ‘at the battle … at Bunker Hill but no record has been found in either the Massachusetts or New Hampshire records to verify his 1775 service. By his statement, his service at the battle is considered as proven. In 1777 he enlisted from Newbury, Massachusetts, for three years or the duration of the war, into the 2nd New Hampshire regiment commanded by Col. George Reid. His company was commanded by Capt. Caleb Robinson. This unit saw extensive service including the battles of Hubbardton, Vermont and Saratoga, New York. Caesar mentions neither of these but does mention his involvement in the battles of: Monmouth, New Jersey 1778 – Fort Herkimer, New York, Newtown, New York in 1779 and Sullivan’s Expedition against the Iroquois in Horseneck, Connecticut. Caesar served until June 1783 when he was discharged at the New Windsor encampment of the Continental Army near the Hudson River just south of Newburgh, New York.
Agrippa Hull – MA
Agrippa Hull was born on March 7, 1759 and died on May 21, 1848. He was a Massachusetts soldier born free to Amos and Bathsheba Hull. On May 1, 1777, at eighteen years old, Agrippa Hull enlisted as part of Captain Chadwick’s Company, Colonel Brewer’s Regiment. Hull served as an orderly to Major General John Paterson and participated in the Battle of Freeman’s Farm.Muster rolls indicate that Hull encamped at Valley Forge in December 1777 and January 1778. In May 1779, Hull began serving as an orderly to General Tadeusz Kościuszko, a Polish-Lithuanian engineer in the Continental Army. The two formed a close bond. Hull accompanied Kościuszko through the heaviest fighting in South Carolina—including the Siege of Ninety-Six and the Battle of Cowpens. While at West Point in July 1783, Hull received his discharge from the Continental Army, signed by General George Washington.
Windsor Fry – RI
Windsor Fry was born free in 1759 in East Greenwich of Kent County, Rhode Island. He died on February 23, 1823. Windsor Fry worked as a Laborer and at sixteen years of age – in March of 1775 – he enlisted. At the time of his enlistment, the war had not yet begun. He was probably in the Kentish Guard as a private in Captain Thomas Holden’s Company. The Rhode Islanders were quick to prepare for war; sending Stephen Hopkins and Samuel Ward to join the Continental Congress in Philadelphia Pennsylvania in 1774. While Militia groups formed in Providence, the Providence Grenadier Company with Captain Johnathan Aronld. Windsor fought in the defense of New York as part of the 9th regiment which crossed the Delaware river in December 1776 and participated in the battles of Trenton and Princeton New Jersey in 1777.
Prince Simbo – CT
Prince Simbo was born in 1777. He joined Captain Ebenezer Hills’s Company in the 7th Connecticut Regiment, Huntington’s Brigade, First Division. He enlisted in Glastonbury, Connecticut—as did Sampson Freeman and six other Black men throughout the war. Simbo most likely enlisted as a free man, though the evidence remains inconclusive. If free, he “likely had more significant rights and privileges associated with membership to the militia” prior to enlistment.
Simbo served in the Continental Army throughout the remainder of the war. He encamped at Valley Forge, and his unit fought at the Battles of Brandywine, Germantown, and Monmouth. Two years later, the Connecticut soldier incurred a serious illness or injury at the Jockey Hollow encampment. In December 1779, Simbo took a thirty-day furlough, but then commanders listed him as “Sick Absent” until July 1780, when they transferred him into the Invalid Corps. Established by Congress, this unit provided “guard details and drill training,” which freed up able-bodied soldiers to fight on the front lines.
After the war, Simbo returned to Glastonbury, CT. In November 1777, just before marching into Valley Forge, Simbo carved a cow horn he used to carry gunpowder. A witness to history, this beautiful work of craftsmanship still survives. It indicates that Simbo knew how to read and write, as he included the following inscription on it: Prince Simbo
his horn made at Glastenbury – November 17th
William Condo – NY
Born into slavery in 1754, William Condo inherited the legal status of his mother—an African American woman, likely also named Condo. Described as a “Mulatto,” William Condo would have had a father of white or Native American ancestry. On March 2, 1777, William Condo was enlisted by his owner, Captain Joseph McCracken, as a private in a ranger company belonging to Colonel Goose Van Schaick’s 1st New York Regiment. During this first year, Condo served as a personal servant to Captain McCracken which meant that he would cook, split firewood, polish steel, and clean leather, among other responsibilities. But Condo would also carry a musket, serve in the ranks, and fight beside any other soldier in the regiment. In April 1780, Condo left the army and returned to New Perth. During “The Great Burning” in the summer of 1780, Condo would have mobilized with Long’s Company to defend against raiding parties of British Regulars, Loyalists, and their Native American Allies. Condo’s future movements and military service suggest McCracken may have granted him freedom in the end. In 1781, Condo traveled to Pelham, Massachusetts—the probable place of his childhood. In April, at the age of twenty-seven, he re-enlisted in the Continental Army, representing the town of Pelham. He joined as a Private in Captain John Fuller’s Company, of Colonel William Shepard’s 4th Massachusetts Regiment. Condo served until the war’s end, including service at West Point. On December 26, 1783, he received his final discharge.
Jacob Francis – NJ
Jacob Francis, Revolutionary War veteran, was born on January 15, 1754 in Amwell, New Jersey. His mother was African American and his father’s race was unknown. It is unknown if Francis was born free or into slavery, but as a child he was bound out to no fewer than five men before coming of age. His first indenture was with Henry Wambaugh, who then sold Francis’ time to Michael Hatt, who in turn sold the boy’s time to farmer Minner Gulick (1731-1804). When Francis was 13, Gulick sold his time to Joseph Saxton who, in May 1768, took the young man as his servant to New York, Long Island and then to the Island of St. John. In about November 1769, the two sailed to Salem, Massachusetts where Saxton sold the fifteen-year-old’s time to Salem resident Benjamin Deacon, with whom Francis remained until he turned 21 in January 1775. Within a matter of weeks, the Revolutionary War erupted nearby. By October, Jacob Francis had enlisted as a private in the 8th Massachusetts Regiment, which became the
16th Continental Regiment under the command of Colonel Paul D. Sergeant. Francis’ regiment helped drive the British out of Boston. They then sailed to New York where they participated in the Battle of Long Island on August 27, 1776. His regiment then retreated to Peekskill, New York, then to Morristown, New Jersey, and finally into Trenton, New Jersey in time for the Battles of Trenton on December 26, 1776 and January 2, 1777. Francis left his Army unit in 1777 at Trenton to return to his childhood home, where his mother was in ill health. Francis did not return to his unit to muster out or receive his back pay. Instead, he enrolled in the New Jersey militia, serving until 1781.
Edward “Ned” Hector – PA
Edward Hector, a free black man who served in the Third Pennsylvania Artillery, may be symbolic of the black Continental soldier, but he certainly was not typical. Hector served in an artillery unit, which manned cannons. The overwhelming majority of black soldiers were infantrymen, soldiers armed and equipped for service on foot. Hector also is distinguished from so many other African Americans in the Continental Army by the simple fact that we know his identity. Many of the available muster roles do not identify the soldier by race, so it is difficult to determine the actual number of blacks who served in the Continental Army. Those who do appear on the roles are in most cases listed simply as “Negro Man” or “Negro by first name.” That Edward Hector is known at all is due, in part, to an obituary, which appeared in the Norristown Register of January 15, 1834, which reads:
“Edward Hector – Died on Friday the 3rd of January 1834, aged about 90 years. Edward Hector, a colored man and veteran of the Revolution. In that cause he risked all he had to risk – his life; and he survived the event for a long lapse of years, to witness the prosperity of a country whose independence he had so nobly assisted to achieve and which neglected him in his old age.”
Hector’s celebrity is also the result of his exceptional bravery during the Battle of Brandywine, where he reportedly disobeyed orders to abandon his artillery wagon during the army’s retreat and courageously brought his horses and ammunition with him on the escape toward Chester. To honor his service, the Pennsylvania legislature awarded Hector’s family a special pension of forty dollars in 1827. Later, the town of Conshohocken would also name a street after him.
The service of African Americans in Continental Army made clear to many white Americans the anomaly of a slaveholding people fighting for liberty. In 1780 Pennsylvania became the first state to abolish slavery. But while independence from imperial rule brought the promise of freedom, it did not result in equality of condition or opportunity, even for those who fought for the patriot cause. The gradual abolition law freed African Americans only once they reached the age of twenty-eight, and those born after the date of freedom had to serve a lengthy apprenticeship. Thus, slavery continued to exist in Pennsylvania into the 1840s. After American victory in the War for Independence, Pennsylvania’s African Americans’ long, difficult struggle for civil rights had barely begun.
Edward Harmon – DE
The Pension Application of Edward Harmon a soldier of the revolution reports: aged about sixty, personally appeared before the subscriber of the associate Judges of the Supreme Court of the State of Delaware, did depose and say that in the year 1777 he enlisted under Captain Robert Kirkwood of the first Company of the Delaware Regiment, and continued in the service from that time as a common soldier until the conclusion of the war, when he was discharged by general proclamation, and that from the time of his enlistment to his discharge he served in the southern states in the Army under the command of Generals Gates and Green. And the said Edward Harmon did further depose and say that from his reduced circumstances in life he needs the assistance of his country. Edward (his X mark) Harmon State of Delaware Records indicate a receipt of a pension on Certificate 1790. In the 1820 federal census for Sussex County DE, Edward Harmon is recorded as a “Free Colored Person” over 45 with a female over 45, a male under 14, and a male and a female 14 -26.
Philip Savoy – MD
The Pension Application of Philip Savoy stated he enlisted in Col. William Smallwood’s Regiment sometime in the Spring of the Year 1778, to serve during the war and that Philip Savoy did according to the best of his Recollection and Belief serve during the revolutionary war. It was certified by Anne Arundel County, State of Maryland that Philip Savoy, “a man of Colour” enlisted as a private in the fourth Maryland Regiment in the Revolutionary War. It was certified that by the Musters of Maryland Troops that Philip Savoy a private in the 1st Regiment. Enlisted on 20th of May 1778 and was Discharged on 18th of August 1780 and by the Pay Roll of the Troops in the Maryland Line it appears that Philip Savoy received Arrears of Pay from the 1st Regiment 1780 to the 15th November 1783. Savoy was married and they had six children.
Andrew Pebbles – VA
Virginian Andrew Pebbles (self-described as “a poor unlearned Mulatto”), enlisted in the 11th Virginia Regiment in 1778, and later served with Lee’s Legion. At the battle of Eutaw Springs, “he received three wounds … in the shoulder slightly, lost the thumb of the left hand and was bayonetted in the belly.” In 1782, Pebbles was also present in a raid at Chehaw Neck with enslaved John Shrewsberry from South Carolina. Pebbles was discharged from the army in August 1782. Thirty-six years later, Andrew Pebbles a free black soldier recounted his revolutionary service for the court, and this black patriot’s wife and child were still enslaved.
Martin Black – NC
Martin Black (born c. 1751) – Black originally joined the 10th North Carolina Regiment in New Bern, whereupon his commanders marched him to Georgetown for inoculation against smallpox. The procedure gave Martin Black lifetime immunity from an epidemic disease that killed one-third of everyone who caught it naturally. At Valley Forge, commanders reassigned Black to the 2nd North Carolina to make up for deficiencies in brigade strength. Martin Black fought at Monmouth Courthouse and Stony Point, and he was present at West Point before the British captured him in May 1780 at Charleston, South Carolina. He escaped after a week’s confinement and rejoined his regiment after a brief visit home.
John Shrewsberry – SC
John Shrewsberry was enslaved and owned by the Laurens family of South Carolina. He was the personal servant to Colonel John Laurens during the Revolutionary War since 1777. John Laurens professed to be genuinely concerned about the inhumanity of the institution of slavery and expresses the desire for any slave that fights for the Americans and any slave owned by the Laurens family would be freed.
During the infamous winter in Valley Forge of 1778 John Laurens sent frequent requests to his father, Henry Laurens for posh officer clothing but when a checked shirt and hunting shirt was sent for Shrewsbury, John Lauren’s response was “if there be any difficulty in getting him Winter Cloths, I believe he can do without.” Laurens idealism in theory but in day-to-day reality he had internalized the culture of the slave society elite of South Carolina as clearly demonstrated in his poor treatment of his personal slave John Shrewsberry. Laurens was killed in battle and any promises to John Shrewsberry died with him. The Frenchman and Polish volunteer that claimed Laurens linen and clothing and other property, noted how pitiable condition of the two enslaved black men (one believed to be Shrewsberry) who were so deficient in linen and clothing they could have been deemed naked. They were given some of Lauren’s clothing.
Nathan Fry – GA
Nathan Fry was born free in Westmoreland County. By June 1823, he was reported to be about sixty-eight or sixty-nine years of age, and living in Richmond County, GA. By Nathan Fry’s own account, he enlisted in the Minute Service with Daniel Duval of Henrico County militia regiment in 1775. He later traveled to Savannah, Georgia, and served under Captain Mosby in Colonel Elbert’s Regiment (Georgia Line of the Continental Army) against the Creek Indians as a drummer. He later served as a waiter to Major-General Lachlan McIntosh at Valley Forge and as a batman to Baron Steuben. He was discharged in Richmond County, GA in approximately 1782.
They Were Good Soldiers: African-Americans Serving in the Continental Army, 1775-1783 by John U. Rees (Solihull, England: Helion & Company, 2019)
PURCHASE A PRINT
You are now able to purchase a print of the Patriots of African Descent Monument online. Purchasing a print will go towards continuing to educate those about the diverse cultures that contributed to our Nation’s quest for freedom.